BATS Theatre, Studio, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

02/07/2021 - 03/07/2021

Production Details

WHADDARYA? features extracts from Kiwi plays centred around the theme of New Zealand identity and what it means to be a New Zealander.

Steven Ray is an acclaimed playwright and director whose career has spanned theatre, TV, film and radio. He is a skilled teacher for young performers with a wide range of directing and performance knowledge. Steven replaces original director Shane Bosher who has taken on the  role of dramaturg.

While our family whakapapa will determine much of our individual identity, WHADDARYA? explores identity through excerpts from plays that focus on important events in New Zealand’s history that have helped to shape who we are.

Plays covered:
The Bellbird, Stephen Sinclair
Waiora, Hone Kouka
Wednesday to Come, Renée
Rupture, Craig Thane
Foreskin’s Lament, Greg McGee
Burn Her, Sam Brooks
Te Karakia, Albert Belz

Produced by Young & Hungry Arts Trust
Directed by Steven Ray
Performed by Amy McLean, Finlay Langelaan, Laughlan Campion and Mycah Keall

BATS Theatre, The Studio
2 – 3 July 2021
The Difference $40
Full Price $18
Group 6+ $15
Concession Price $14

*Access to The Studio is via stairs, so please contact the BATS Box Office at least 24 hours in advance if you have accessibility requirements so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.

From https://www.youngandhungry.org.nz/yh-and-schools/2021-yh-schools-tour/


Our 2021 Y&H Schools Tour provisional route, touring during term 2 is as follows. Please get in touch if your area is not represented, or the dates don’t work and we’ll do our best to include you.

Week 1: Wellington
Week 2: Nelson/ Marlborough/ Christchurch
Week 3: Mid & South Canterbury/ Otago
Week 4: Manawatu/ Taranaki/ Waikato
Week 5: Auckland
Week 6: Northland
Week 7: Auckland/ Coromandel/ Bay of Plenty
Week 8: Gisborne/ Hawkes Bay
Week 9: Wairarapa/ Wellington

Theatre ,

1 hr

Affirms the inestimable value of our performing arts

Review by John Smythe 04th Jul 2021

In the early stages of the lament that gives Greg McGee’s play its name, Foreskin (the team’s nickname for Seymour, whose real name is more perceptive) tells us he was indoctrinated into rugby culture from an age when, on wintry mornings, he would leave the comfort of his “mum’s warm coat ends [to run] on to dewy fields that seemed as vast as the Russian steppes.” At its climactic end, Foreskin confronts the culture and himself with the mocking challenge “Whaddarya?” that haunts him at this seminal moment in his existential quest.  

Whaddarya? is the ideal title for this collection of seven excerpts from plays that explore Kiwi identity – curated, I assume, by Shane Bosher who is credited as dramaturg, having handed the directorial reins to Steven Ray. Produced by the Young & Hungry Arts Trust, who inherited this invaluable mahi from EnsembleImpact, Whaddarya? is completing a nationwide Term 2 tour of high schools and has just graced Wellington with two public performances in the tiny BATS Studio.

Four excellent young actors – Amy McLean, Finlay Langelaan, Laughlan Campion and Mycah Keall – play roles from plays that span 120-odd years of our history, from the 1860s to 1980s, in a small oblong space defined by a rope anchored at each corner by a large river stone.

All four open the show with a beautifully sung rendition of ‘Tawhiti e’, the mōteatea Hone Hurihanganui composed for Hone Kouka’s Waiora (subtitled Te Ūkaipō – The Homeland). It laments the distance separating the singer from Hawaiiki and Rangiātea, across the great ocean of Kiwa, and leads into Rongo’s water’s-edge monologue to her late Nanny, grieving the distance her family has had to travel from their homeland, Waiora. Her Dad has taken a job in Christchurch (in 1965) in the belief that “if we live like Pākehā, then they will leave us in peace and we will be strong.”

Boyboy’s cry into the void for his absconded older brother, Mahurangi, to come back to the whānau is interrupted by his schoolteacher, Louise – and it becomes apparent that the cultural dislocation has led to growing conflicts within the family and Boyboy being suspended.

The scene from Stephen Sinclair’s The Bellbird, set in 1860s Marlborough, sees bare-chested, axe-wielding Api acting up in amusement at the cultural misapprehensions of an excitable Pākehā woman before consolidating the attraction he and another young woman feel for each other. That she never knew her Irish mother, let alone her father, and was brought up in an orphanage so has no whakapapa, stands in marked contrast to the rich heritage that gives him mana – yet he is obliged by the settlers to remain outside and eat off the ground like a dog.

Working class Kiwi life in the 1930s Depression is the context for Wednesday to Come by Renée. Here we are treated to the tense interaction between the suddenly bereaved Iris and her brother-in-law, Ted. Ben, we discover, has taken his own life at a work gang relief camp. The revealing of complex layers of personal and social pressures makes for a compelling scene where Iris’s fight for agency in facing the crisis comes to the fore.  

Rupture by Craig Thane is introduced as a new play (it’s not one I am familiar with). Apparently the first part takes place in 1981 when, in the context of anti-Springbok Tour protests, Greg falls in love with Al. The scene we see is in 1986 where Greg wants them to go to Rome together to see Caravaggio’s paintings of boys. But Al wants to stay, take on a new job and make money in these exciting times (Rogernomics has people like him in its thrall and the ’87 share market crash is not on anyone’s radar) – which appals the still ‘revolutionary’ Greg. Al counters that the pending legislation that will make them legal is revolution enough for him.

The excerpt from Burn Her, written by Sam Brooks in 2016, pits newly-elected Aroha Party leader Aria against her PR adviser George (a woman). They face the unexpected challenge of facing the media, as a sexual assault allegation (involving a late night incident between the party’s senior male mentor and a young male intern) threatens to break. Any hope that Aria can retain any modicum of personal integrity evaporates as the all-too-credible scene plays out.

An ensemble chant of “Amandla” introduces the next piece. We are back in 1981 for a morning-after-the-night-before scene from Te Karakia by Albert Belz, where Ranea and Matt (who I think grew up in the same small town) have become reacquainted at an anti-tour rally. Only after they have slept together does she realise he is a member of the police Red Squad and his attempt to justify his role gets short shrift from her: “I’ve been fucked over by a pig.”

And so to the two scenes from Foreskin’s Lament. At an after-match party, the team captain Clean – ironically named; he plays dirty on and off the field – comes on to Moira, calling her a “bit of fluff”, only to find she is Foreskin’s girlfriend and a quick-witted lawyer to boot. Her recognising him as a lowly constable on door duty in court puts him in his place. He leaves when Foreskin appears, leaving Moira to wrestle with Foreskin’s questioning of whether their trendy lefty sensibilities have any value in the real world. This segues into the final lament, precipitated by the death of the team mate who was hospitalised by Clean and building to the powerful challenge to us all: “Whaddarya?”  

There is a lot to chew on for anyone who tunes into this dynamic 50 minutes. High Schools get a study guide and can book a workshop with the actors. Normally it’s performed in the traverse so they have adapted seamlessly to BATS Studio’s end-on space. Simple props are judiciously used and, from creating the sound effect of lapping waves in the first scene to throwing the cue to each speaker at the end, water bottles are cleverly employed.

Once more, by treating us to morsels from the rich theatrical repast New Zealand has to offer, this venture affirms the inestimable value of our performing arts. Let’s hope those who implement the impending NZ History curriculum take advantage of everything all art forms have to offer in getting students engaged, enthused and informed.
 – – – – – – – – – – – – –
It is tempting to suggest Greg McGee took the ‘What is it to be a New Zealander?’ baton from Bruce Mason, whose last stage play, Blood of the Lamb, premiered in the same year (1980) that Foreskin’s Lament kicked off a new wave of homegrown theatre. ‘The Made Man’ part of The End of the Golden Weather (1959) thoroughly critiques the idea that athletic prowess is the primary goal of manhood, and a plot element in The Hand on the Rail (1965, radio; 1974, stage) specifically characterises the brutality of rugby, even between players in the same team, which is a pivotal part of McGee’s play.

Of course both playwrights counterpoint their male characters with women on their own quests for ‘self’, often in the face of male dominance (which is central to Blood of the Lamb). Mason’s other abiding theme involved contrasting the richness of tikanga Māori with the pale imitation of British culture imported by Pākehā. As for being a gay male when it was illegal in NZ … All these dimensions are canvassed in Whaddarya? 

Shane Bosher, by the way, has just opened his own new play, Everything After, at Auckland’s Q theatre and is directing two Mason solos with Stephen Lovatt, collectively titled Every Kind of Weather, which will open in Wellington in August. 


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